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That leaves the association to help in the cases it can, she said, including food support, help finding work, and help with rent and utility payments to stabilize a family’s budget while, for example, someone waits for a new job’s first paycheck.
To help low-income residents enjoy the holidays, the association sells certificates at Cub Foods to pay for Thanksgiving turkeys and the fixings. At the height of the recession in 2008, Keenan said, 816 households received turkeys. This Thanksgiving, 943 families needed help.
But affording a turkey or Christmas ham is the least of the worries for people without work or food, said Ness, the director at PRISM. By the end of the year, low-income people have run out of money from the earned-income tax credit, but growing children still need new coats and gloves, and with the holiday breaks, they aren’t receiving free and reduced-price lunches each day at school.
Parents know, said Ness, that if children “didn’t have breakfast and lunch [at school], those kids would go without food.” With PRISM’s food shelf, “we’re on the other end of that,” she said. In November, to make up for a cut to food stamps, or SNAP, the nonprofit started allowing families to come twice a month and take more food.
All this comes before the pressure of finding money for Christmas presents. To help, PRISM runs a free holiday toy shop for registered parents as well as a resale clothing store open to the public. Ness said need for the holiday shop program has kept steady since 2011.
Beyond holiday programs, the need for food and help with basic needs is more pronounced. “The need continues to stay high,” Ness said. “It’s not dropping; it’s just stopped growing as much.”
That situation, she said, is no less serious than what PRISM and others faced four or five years ago. “We have people very literally coming in hungry,” she said. And when someone comes in, she said, it likely means they didn’t eat the night before, or have been skipping meals to make sure their kids have food.
Graison Hensley Chapman is a Northfield freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.